It’s been a few months since the hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts proffered some friendly advice to you as a new White House adviser. You were encountering a lot of criticism, and as I warned you at the time: “If you think the criticism to date has been bad, just wait.”
That was in late February. I’ve been keeping up on how you’ve been doing since then, and frankly, Seb, I’m a bit worried. Your doctoral thesis and dissertation committee have continued to face heavy scrutiny, raising doubts about your academic bona fides. You continue to insist on being called “Doctor,” a tic I warned you about back in February. Back then I didn’t even mention your possible association with an odious far-right Hungary group, but it looks like that controversy ain’t going away either.
Then there was your little performance at Georgetown from earlier this week, which Allegra Kirkland wrote up in Talking Points Memo:
Top White House aide Sebastian Gorka abruptly departed from a Georgetown University cybersecurity conference Monday afternoon after undergraduate students subjected him to a round of tough questions.
A senior counterterrorism and cybersecurity adviser to President Donald Trump who came to government by way of Breitbart News, Gorka was invited to speak on a panel titled “News, Alternative Facts, and Propaganda: The Role of Cyber in Influence Operations.” Several attendees told TPM he appeared on the defensive from the start, using his prepared remarks to accuse journalists who use anonymous sources of engaging in fake news campaigns….
A Georgetown spokesperson said that Gorka was scheduled to leave at 1:30 p.m. ET, though it wasn’t announced to the audience.
You abrupt departure without any advance explanation helped to generate some of the misleading news headlines you claim to detest.
Still, you said something interesting at that fake news panel, if the Breitbart write-up is accurate:
“Eight out of ten times, I can read something written in the daily paper about an event that occurred the night before, and it is literally 180 degrees incorrect,” said Gorka in his remarks to the crowded room. “It is totally contrary to what happened inside the building 80 percent of the time. That’s something that has opened my eyes to the lack of true investigative journalism.”
Anyone who has served in government feels at least a twinge of sympathy here. A media report on what’s going on inside the government will inevitably get points of nuance and emphasis wrong. So I get what you’re saying.
That said, one way members of the media can improve their reporting is by asking direct questions and getting direct answers. I’m not a reporter, but I will probably be writing about your future exploits so long as you’re here at the White House. I was going to ask this direct question to you via Twitter, but you blocked me there.
So here goes: what, exactly, do you do at the White House?
I bring this up because according to the first wave of press coverage you received in February, it seems clear that you are not on the National Security Council staff, and you do not appear to have a security clearance of any kind. Those initial profiles pegged you as someone staffing the Strategic Initiatives Group headed by White House strategist Stephen Bannon — but now the White House claims that this group never formally existed. You said at one point you were working on long-term projects, but those tasks now seem to fall under Jared Kushner’s bailiwick. I tried searching for you on the White House’s website but there’s literally no mention of you.
Seriously, what do you do all day besides go to conferences, talk to right-wing media, and block people on Twitter? Do you draft memos? Speeches? Planning documents? Do you have any authority in any area whatsoever? Does anyone listen to your advice? Are you speaking to friendly media like Fox News and Breitbart so much because you have no actual policy responsibilities?
I really want to know, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Others have been puzzling over your exact job description. Colin Kahl, the national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, noted your ample amount of free time last month:
When I was a deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, I didn’t have a lot of time for media appearances or keeping up with my Twitter feed (we had a lot of meetings). That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Gorka.
And then there’s Marc Ambinder:
There is no denying that social media has helped to spread fake news around, Seb. I’ve certainly been guilty of this error in the past. I don’t want to do it again, however. So it would be nice to know what you actually do at the White House the next time you say something that sparks controversy (and let’s be honest here, with your track record we know that’s going to happen). Surely you would not violate any confidences by telling us about your day-job. Inquiring minds want to know!!
Oh, and seriously, follow my earlier advice — it will serve you well in the contretemps to come.